11/21/2002 12:00AM

Jersey dates irk tracks and horsemen

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The New Jersey Racing Commission awarded 147 live racing dates to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's racetracks at a meeting on Wednesday, upsetting track officials and horsemen alike.

Officials from the authority and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association had approached the commission with a plan to run 141 live racing days, 92 at Monmouth Park and 49 at The Meadowlands.

The commission, however, tacked on six days to The Meadowlands meet in order to satisfy a law that was passed in the 1980's to protect Garden State Park, which closed several years ago.

Bruce Garland, the senior vice president of racing for the authority, said Thursday that a 55-day meet will force The Meadowlands to card six days of racing a week. He said that this year's 63-day meet has been a "near disaster" because of short fields and depressed handle.

"The 55 days is a serious problem, and everyone knows it's a serious problem," Garland said.

Dennis Drazin, the legal counsel for the horsemen's group, said Wednesday that horsemen and tracks would push for legislation next year that would rescind a law that requires the authority to run 141 live racing days. Atlantic City was awarded four days to bring the New Jersey dates total to 151.